As Spring rolled in so did the season of weddings which we welcomed with two back to back. The weather was gorgeous, the main event was romantic and memorable, and the company was even better, but as any wedding participant or guest can attest the food is a huge part of a wedding. Almost five years ago, wow can’t believe we’ll be celebrating our five year wedding anniversary next month, I remember planning the festivities for our own wedding like it was yesterday. Even though I was really sick those days I was pre-gluten free so I thoroughly enjoyed the pre-wedding tastings and wedding day of bits and pieces that I managed to gobble down. Since then, we’ve attended numerous weddings, all of which have been since going gluten free, so sadly I’m very familiar with the protocol for attending a non-gluten free wedding, as most are.
Weddings, weddings, weddings, how can you navigate them gluten free?
Since I started my gluten free adventures we’ve attended six or more weddings, five of which I’ve been pregnant for and all of which have been equipped with mountains of mouth watering foods that were strictly off limits to me. Leading up to each of the events I always have the same anxieties, hours of just watching everyone around you gobble down food only to wonder if the venue will at least be able to accommodate your dietary needs for the main course? This experience is hard enough when you’re just gluten free but when you’re gluten free and pregnant it’s even more difficult to endure the sights and smells of tons of non-gluten free foods for hours on end. Now, is eating at a wedding impossible for us gluten free folks? I’m happy to report that I’ve never left one wedding without eating at least something, but you certainly have to harness that will power of yours, come with a full belly, and plaster a permanent smile on your face as trays of steaming hot horderves pass you. To help you along your way this wedding season, I’m here to offer a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up through the years.
Surviving The Cocktail Hour
Okay, so this is a toughy. I’m not a huge drinker but I do like a glass of wine or champagne which unfortunately for me has been off limits as well for a majority of the weddings we’ve attended making cocktail hour even tougher. But for this chunk of time there are a few things that you can do. What I always do is eat a dinner of sorts before we go to the wedding, if the timing is appropriate, so I’m not really hungry when it’s time for cocktail hour. This time around it was salad central before both weddings which tided me over for a short time, but for some reason it didn’t buy me much time probably because of that little bump I had going on.
Along with a pre-wedding dinner, you can also scurry into the cocktail hour as soon as possible and survey the tables of food. I tend to stay away from most everything because of cross contamination, especially once a lot of people start serving themselves, but if you manage to get there early on see if you can spot a fresh vegetable, fruit, or cheese table. All of the fruits and veggies of course would be perfect for you, sans touching by too many guests later on, and the cheeses might be okay too, you can always try checking with some of the staff. As far as the rest of the food though, most if not all will be off limits, so make sure you grab your favorite cocktail, circulate the crowd, and fill your plate up early with lots of fresh treats and enjoy!
The Dreaded Sit Down Dinner At The Reception
So I’m sure you remember that little attendance/meal selection card that you returned just weeks prior to the wedding. It might seem presumptuous to think that the wedding venue might be able to accommodate your dietary needs but keep this in mind, they do these large events every day with scores of guests coming through with all kinds of needs so chances are you might be in luck. However, as with every event, you’re better off giving some advanced notice of your needs if possible and this meal selection card is your chance. I simply mark the meal I would like sans gluten and just note gluten free on there as well, which in most cases is repeated back to me by our server once we’re seated at our table in the reception, a great feeling that they at least are aware of a special need. At this point I would always request to speak with a manager so you can review your meal options for the rest of the reception, especially your main entree. Don’t be afraid to do this, trust me you’ll be hungry enough to check your shyness at the door and make sure you have some safe food options.
Mommy, Daddy, and Baby #2 celebrating a new marriage!
Next up, be prepared to sit silently through the first few courses before your entree arrives. I know, not what you wanted to hear but there’s a strong possibility that the salad dressing may have flour in it (which you can always order dry but that’s not my cup of tea), the pasta of course is chock full of gluten and they may not have a gluten free option, and that roll that they plopped down in front of you, well that goes without saying that it’s strictly off limits. However, don’t be discouraged, after talking to the manager at several weddings I’ve successfully had delicious salads, sometimes custom made for just me, gluten free pasta courses, and delicious entrees at the end, you just want to make sure you review your options early on in the meal. If some of these aren’t options then it’s time to go with Plan B, always always always bring your own snacks.
For every single wedding I never bank on the venue being able to give me dinner so I always make sure that I have plenty of food to get me through the long night. Some of my favorite go to snacks are a bag of Chex, granola bar, cookies or pretzels, fresh fruit or veggies sliced up, and especially right now while I’m pregnant, a little candy here and there. Is it the most fun thing in the world to carry a larger bag stuffed with baggies of gluten free goodies that you then have to whip out during your sit down meal while everyone else is gobbling down their plated meals? Of course not, and do I feel a little bit like a picky kid at the dinner table? Yes. But hey who cares, as long as you’re eating and able to enjoy everything else at the wedding thanks to a full belly, who cares how it gets full anyway.
Social situations are always a challenge when you follow a different diet than the majority of the world around you. You can live gluten free in your own cocoon easy enough sure, but when it comes time to venture out into the world and experience non-gluten free situations then we’re reminded of just how much the world isn’t quite made for you. Eating is tough enough but the social challenge of attending an event and not eating or interrogating every staff member around you about the gluten status of a dish doesn’t make you feel like you’re the most attractive guest on the planet. But until there’s an epic evolution overnight where the entire world adopts a gluten free lifestyle, those who live the gluten free life have no choice but to make do and take chances everywhere we go.
So are wedding still beautiful, romantic, and wonderful events for Dan and I to have some alone time? Of course, but they have lost some of their luster for me since going gluten free, at least from the aspect of looking forward to tons of tasty food. However, thanks to many a knowledgeable wedding venue and staff, I haven’t yet starved through a wedding so there’s hope on the horizon for a gluten free food filled wedding, okay well a girl can dream can’t she.
Lindsay (32 weeks)